Saturday, July 23, 2016

What Will You Miss about These Good Old Days?

I have a tendency to get very sentimental. I was telling someone a few weeks back of how I was thinking through future Christmasses with my children and realizing that they don't have very many left that will be magical, and even more depressing, this coming Christmas will be Ingrid's only Christmas as a two year old. The only one! The following year she'll be three. And then four. And the Christmas that she is four years old, Anja will be eleven. ELEVEN. !!! Unbelievable!

Funnily, the friend I was talking to about this was prevelant person of one stretch of “good old days” of my past. At the time, she had an eleven-ish year old herself while I was just stepping into my twenties and living a life that was exceptionally optimistic and inexpensive. Talk about the good old days... My hobbies were as abundant as my time, and to give an idea of how much time I had on my hands, walking was, for awhile, my only source of transportation. I read almost all the books on the “Summer Must-Reads” table at the bookstore. I tried (and ultimately failed) to teach myself Italian by buying an English-Italian dictionary, which I would carry to pretty, shady spots near creeks or rivers and sit and read for hours. (I'm shedding tears now, remembering just how much free time I had back then. Actual tears. No, not really, jk.)

That was a pretty great time of my life. Lots of friends, lots of music, lots of fun. But it wasn't all sunshine. I was really struggling with the whole idea of college and how to do it. (Another checkmark on the Fail List.) I was in that awkward phase between school and (I don't know what prefix to use here in order to convey that I believe college students are adults, but that being an adult as a student and being an adult as a non-student are so different) adulthood where you'd like to meet someone who is marriage material but you don't really want to mess around with all the tangly dating stuff. I wanted to pursue music but I didn't really have the means to do that seriously. It all worked out in the end (obviously) but since I didn't have a crystal ball to look into and see my future life, that stage was full of it's own challenges.

It wouldn't be long before I was thrust into a far different stage, and one that, if we're telling the truth, I wouldn't really care to repeat. I know that some people look back at having their first few babies and wish for that time back, but not me. I feel much more balanced and confident now than when I just had one or two small babies. Still, there are snippets of life back then that I remember fondly... afternoon naps with toddler Anja. The little jungle animal swing with a squishy new being snuggled into it, making gurgly baby noises. Taking long walks with one or two at my own speedy pace because no one else was of independent walking age. Generally speaking (even though it's never lasted very long with any of my girls,) I miss Naptime.

Now I'm in a very different stage of life; a few years into my thirties, four kids, too many bills, and way more hobbies than I have time for. It's so easy to get discouraged in this particular stage, but it's also easy to “live it up,” and “savor each moment,” as they say. Stumbling bleary-eyed to the coffee maker in the morning after being up half the night with a squalling infant, it's hard to imagine the days being gone in a flash. Every moment lasts an eternity. The idea that someday you'll look back and think anything remotely close to, “where did the time go?” (which is what everyone in the grocery store will tell you, as you're struggling with how the holy heck you're going to get your infant in her bucket seat AND all your groceries into that ridiculously small shopping cart which always had seemed a perfectly adequate size until now) seems ludicrous. Yet, here I am, looking back over eight years and thinking exactly that. Where did the time go? Because of that, I'm able to appreciate the sweet parts of parenting a little more and I'm grateful for that because it makes the job easier and a whole lot more fun. I definitely would say I'm enjoying parenthood a million times (I might even venture so far as to as a billion times) more now than I did when I had one baby. One baby was stressful. Anja was cute and sweet and funny, but she was also terribly overwhelming. I didn't know how I was supposed to get everything done with a baby to hold. In fact, I really didn't even know what I was supposed to do with her. We were just young bums with absolutely no parental qualifications. All the things we used to do couldn't seem to be done as easily with a baby. I found it very difficult to get used to existing as a family with a small baby after being simply two free-thinking adults for so long. Basically, I was young and selfish and didn't know how to give up my lovely lifestyle of whiling away afternoons in sunny coffee shops to change diapers and pace a floor with a colicky newborn who barfed on me a lot. It was a difficult transition. But I'm past that now!

Our summer so far this year has been touch and go in terms of cheerfulness. We've had a lot of extracurricular events happening, which translates to a lot of late nights and little sleep. The kids have acted accordingly. We had a few weeks in particular that were especially difficult with Elka, who screamed at me all day long for days on end. Sometimes she was upset for actual, legitimate-to-her reasons, but not always. By the end of each day I was beat, and as I thought back on the day (or week...) I started wondering what specific things I would miss about this time, as a future me, when this span of time will have been filed away in the cabinets of my memory as a stretch of “the good old days.”

Well, I won't miss the screaming, that's for sure. I won't miss the “jelly legs” that Elka decided to use as I was pushing Ingrid's umbroller through the hoards of other families on the way out from swimming lessons, when she was kicking and screaming and refusing to walk on her own and everyone was staring at us. Nope, won't miss that.

I won't miss the kids accidentally falling asleep in the car at 5pm and then staying up until midnight, even if the nap they got was only five minutes long.

I won't miss being so nervous taking them out in crowds, or crossing busy streets with them.

I won't miss the fighting between them. No, most definitely not.

But I will definitely miss listening in on their funny train games, where they go to India and California with Captain Detergent. I'll miss all the shoes and bikes and Schleich animals scattered around, even though I complain about them now. I dream of someday having a really huge garden, but I know I won't be able to have the enthusiasm and love for one single plant that a four-year-old has. I'll miss baking with them and sharing what we've made to break up the quiet afternoon hours when everybody feels a little stretched.

Actually, there's a lot of little things I'm going to miss. Too many to name. I think often of that “vacuum lines” essay that floats around every so often. Truth be told, I've never actually read the essay. But I've gotten the gist of what it talks about (or imagined what it might say, which pretty much makes me weep,) which is enjoying even the messy parts of having kids because eventually nobody will be there to shuffle in those perfect carpet lines that the vacuum leaves. And that sentiment is one that I try really hard to keep at the forefront of my mind.

When Greta was two, the way she fell asleep every night was by me rubbing her feet. She'd stick her feet up in the air and say, “rud.” Often it was relaxing (sometimes too relaxing—I would nod off, and she'd start kicking her little feet at me, “Rud! Ruuud!!!”) but there were times when I just plain did not want to rub her feet for half an hour until she fell asleep. It seemed stupid that I would even have to do that. Other two year olds were simply put in their beds and fell asleep on command. Why couldn't mine?

                                                      Anja and Greta at ages 3 and 2

Turns out, we talk about that time so often now. And when we talk about it, despite the frustrating times, we can't help smiling and looking back fondly on those silly days. We can remember being frustrated but we can't feel it anymore. They were good days.

All four of my girls have gone through a phase right around 9 months to a year, when they wake up in the middle of the night and stay up for three hours. The phase lasts a month or two, and admittedly, it's exhausting. But it's also kind of special. Those middle-of-the-night times with just your happy baby are so memorable and unique. We read books. We play favorite games such as, “if I throw this toy on the floor and laugh, Mama will think I'm so cute and she will pick it up for me and then I can throw it again.” Another excellent one is, “dump all the books off the bookshelves.” A classic. Looking back, even with the sleep deprivation, those were special times.

Having kids is so full of fun times. And plenty of frustrating times. But it's good to try and look at mundane or even slightly irritating instances as being something you will miss at some point, when you're looking back on your life. Because you likely will. Because even though there are difficulties, even though there are days you want to tear your hair out, even though you're tired of serving pasta with butter and salt because the kids refuse to eat anything even lightly shaded green, someday you'll have the time, energy and resources to cook a gourmet meal that everyone will devour and appreciate and nobody will make gagging sounds or run from the table crying because they hate the smell of broccoli so much. And when that time comes, you can lift your wine (in an actual, breakable wine glass! Not a juice cup!) and toast to the Good Old Days.


  1. Love this! I love your writing. You put what I feel into eloquent words.

  2. I'm just reading your blog for the first time. I discovered you after reading your piece in Soul Gardening. I love this post! I was just thinking about how much more comfortable in motherhood I am with 3 little kids than I was with one. It is somehow easier and I don't feel the need for "ME time " quite as much.
    I do look forward to an easy walk through a parking lot or across a street.